Books

Where’d You Go Bernadette – Maria Semple Review

February 19, 2020
Maria Semple Where'd You Go, Bernadette

I actually wrote my review of Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple a few days ago but I majorly messed up my blog and it got deleted, so here it is again.

I bought Where’d You Go, Bernadette last year and finished it some time in October. The colourful book cover drew me in. It follows the story of Bernadette Fox, an intelligent reclusive architect. Bernadette promised her daughter Bee anything if she got good grades. Bee got excellent grades and wanted to go to Antarctica, which was basically Bernadette’s worst nightmare.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Book Summary

In the beginning the story is mainly narrated through letters sent between the mothers at Bee’s school. They mainly concern Bernadette and her antics. Bernadette is supposed to be funny and kooky, and the sort of antithesis of the stereotypical middle-class mother. She ran over another mother’s foot when she got into an argument with her. I guess some people would find that humorous but to me it seemed too exaggerated to be plausable.

Also, from the title you’d assume that Bernadette was already missing, or that the plot would be about trying to find her. It’s a bit misleading as she only goes missing about three quarters of the way through, and the part where Bee is trying to find her seems rushed and confused. The build up to her going missing is told through letters and sometimes it was confusing and ultimately unsatisfying.

A background story is Bernadette’s husband Elgin Branch, and his emotional affair with his colleague at Microsoft, Soo-Lin. It’s revealed through Soo-Lin’s letters to her friend Audrey. Again, the whole idea of telling a story through letters gets confusing when many characters are involved. It also removes you slightly from those characters.

Overall, many people found this book humorous so maybe it was just me? I didn’t find any of the characters that likeable, and I found Bernadette to be quite tiresome. Where’d You Go, Bernadette was also made into a film and perhaps that’s a more satisfying way to enjoy the plot.

Have you ever read Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple? What did you think?

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